Sunday, August 11, 2013

Feast of St. Clare. Follow a Loving and Faithful God.

For Franciscans, today is the feast of the great St. Clare of Assisi.  I think of St. Clare as the feminine side of Franciscan spirituality. If Francis was the worker, Clare was the prayer.  Clare pushed Francis to assess his relationships, to trust his intuition, and to follow his instincts for compassion toward the poor and the outcasts, particularly lepers.    
Clare believed in an intimate and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ, a loving and faithful God.  Because of her strong sense of God as spouse and lover, she challenges us to soften our hearts and to treasure what we (males in particular) may rather suppress.  
And so a gospel that points to the heart is most fitting for Clare’s feast.
As Jesus says, “where your heart is, there also your treasure may be.”
From the human heart, as Clare concurred, spurs real treasure indeed.  The heart, which does not lie, is the garden of faith, the place where true insight, even prophecy, is born.  The heart is the host of things assured, the generator, so to speak, of conviction, trust, courage, humility, and strength – all of which are brought out as themes in Hebrews – all fruits of faith in Jesus Christ (a heart tendering and faithful God). 
Faith itself is a pilgrimage of sorts.   A certainty that seeks to understand, faith wants more.   Like Abraham, a good Jew, the faithful Christian journeys without knowing where he is being led, or what he will lose along the way.  Like Sarah his wife, she knows not what unexpected blessings she will receive, or what promises to her will be fulfilled.  The faithful Christian, male or female, trusts and so follows. 
Jesus says ‘be not afraid!’  ‘Go, but shed the distractions from me, and most certainly leave your weapons behind’ –as St. Francis did literally after his second crusade.  Because the only valuables that disciples possess cannot distributed by force.   Not by power, not by prestige, nor by wealth is the gospel proclaimed, does God’s love and mercy change lives.  Not in any other way than the way that Christ came into the world (than how God’s love was first announced) can it be revealed again by those who have been converted.  A God who is poor and meek, can be made known only by disciples who are themselves poor and meek.  Love is sown by lovers.
Which returns us to the treasure within.  And here I quote Richard Rohr who says:
“Who you are before God is all you are, and you are more than enough. Everything else is passing away. Your reputation, your titles, your possessions and roles do not define you" they only distract from who you really are and what truly matters. 
Sisters and brothers, we are God’s treasure.  And be our hearts are disposed to God, thus is so that we can know that we are loved by God.  The part of me, the heart, that does not lie leads me to Jesus Christ (he who alone who defines), a God who loves and treasures everyone.   
With faith, our hearts lead.  With faith, we leave extra baggage behind and share pardon and peace with the world. 

In faith may we journey toward intimate, honest and trusting relations with the God who treasures us.  May we sow in others what a loving and faithful God has sown in our hearts, following a poor, meek, and vulnerable Saviour.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Feast of Holy Father Dominic! Heresy and the Word becoming Flesh

“I give you the keys.  Whatever you bind will be bound, whatever you loose will be loosed.”

Today we celebrate the feast of the St. Domenic, founder of the Dominican Order, and because of his historical relationship to St. Francis of Assisi, a “Holy Father” even to Franciscans.  St. Domenic, and the Dominicans, have a charism to preach, and more specifically, to purge heresy from the Church. 
The first heresy that St. Domenic, a 12th century priest, was charged to preach-out was known as the Albigensian heresy.  Domenic’s first target thus, the Albigensians, a group of self-described believers who insisted that all matter was evil.  Recycled from the early church, this heresy (at that time called docetism) arguably influenced the making of John’s gospel in the sense that John is the strongest proclamation of the opposite.  It is the heresy that denies the humanity of Jesus Christ.  Docetism denies that Word becomes flesh, that creation is good and that everything from God has dignity.  And like all heresies, this one tends to resurface. 

The heresy that denies material and therefore human goodness is the heresy that tempts all of us to exclude or to condemn those who are different from ourselves.  If I deny that creation is good, essentially denying the first paragraph of John’s Gospel as well as the first chapter of Genesis, I deny that God became one of us, that God truly loves.  And if I deny these things, which are a denial of the incarnation, I can more easily discard those who are different (races, cultures, creeds, genders, sexualities, etc).  I can discard those who are small, weak, or unable to speak for themselves. I can abuse the power within me, and persecute my neighbour.   And I can react as Peter does, frightened and angry, to Jesus’ revelation that a real Messiah gets crucified – that the gospel is rejected.

To deny that the Word becomes flesh is to deny the authentic love of God, it is to deny that the gospel is a living reality, and that even we as Church, bind and loose.  Something we do with the help of God’s spirit alive in our flesh. 

This may be the human beings’ greatest temptation - to deny our own inherent goodness, the image of God that we reflect, the spirit alive in all of us, and to therefore refuse to work for justice, peace, and mercy; such is to exclude and to condemn.
As people of God we posses the power, which is the love, of God.  We behold the means to come together, to forge genuine peace and to reconcile, to build-up with Christ a kingdom of love and mercy, a place where all belong.  And we posses all of this because the Word becomes flesh and dwells within us.  May we take hold of the keys and bind what should be bound, and loose what ought to be set free.